I find seals (kekeno) difficult to photograph. In the water they're constantly moving and mostly obscured; hauled out, they spend much of their time like big blubbery sausages moulded to the rock on which they're sunbathing. At Turakirae Head, on the southern coast of the North Island last weekend, this was one of the few moderately cooperative seals that posed nicely for me. Harsh, contrasty, middle-of-the-day light didn't help, either. A lovely day for a walk, but a photographer's hell.
The deer I'd been watching on the hill behind my place kept visiting. A few more joined the mob, and one morning I looked out to see seven feeding there, with the southern Ruahine brooding behind. I managed a few photographs before the spaniel's incessant barking and whining made them apprehensive and they ran down into the gully and out of sight.
A few days ago they'd stopped appearing, and yesterday I saw a lone hind on the skyline in the early morning. Soon after, a young stag appeared and chased the hind back over the hill. No doubt he was keeping the others over there too, closer to the safety of the forest. With luck, they'll return when the roar's over.
New Zealand has just one species of swallow: the Welcome swallow. Seventy years ago it had none, other than an occasional vagrant (yes, 'vagrant' is the term the bird people use for individuals that find themselves here by accident after being blown off course by storms or, I suppose, when their usually remarkable navigation systems go haywire). But, in the second half of last century, these delightful little birds began to spread rapidly throughout the country, and they're now almost ubiquitous. This is one of two that hang out in the implement shed where I park my car.
This was an entirely natural process, and I know of no one who has expressed concern about the effects of this colonisation. But, if Welcome swallows had been deliberately or accidentally introduced by humans, would they have been considered a worrying invasive species? Would they, in other words, have been considered unwelcome?
When I looked out the kitchen window early this morning, I noticed a small rabbit crouching in the dew-wet grass. I opened the door carefully and managed a series of photographs, during which the little rabbit relaxed and began feeding. I don't recall ever having seen a wild rabbit with this distinctive fold in its ears, but this will make it instantly identifiable should I see it again. Given its proximity to the neighbour's vege garden (that's it in the background), I might not get many more chances to enjoy the sight, though.
The large pond near the veterinary building at Massey University is a great place to watch and photograph wildlife, as it supports a large population of ducks along with other birds like black swans and coots, all thoroughly habituated to humans — and, if you're lucky, an occasional rat. The ducks are mostly mallards, although these are likely to have interbred to varying degrees with the native grey duck which, as a consequence, are now critically rare.
This one, however, is about as clear an example of a true mallard female as you're likely to find in Aotearoa.
As I left the No. 1 Line car park, I stopped and looked back towards Matanginui Stream. Misty rain drizzled the bush, making it look old and mysterious and slightly dangerous, as if it might hide things that could kill you if this had been jungle somewhere in Asia or Africa or South America. It looked like the kind of jungle where explorers spend fourteen hours travelling a couple of hundred metres then die of some terrible fungal disease that eats them from the skin down to the bone, or of an amoeba that kills them from the inside out, and their skeletons are discovered, if at all, decades later with the remains of their boots still clinging to the bones of their feet.
I wondered how many of those explorers thought, as they lay dying, that their travels had nevertheless been worthwhile; that, given the chance again, they'd still have chosen their explorations even knowing how they'd die. Maybe most of them feared death in a teeming jungle less than an anonymous death in a suburban room in an unremarkable city.
I returned this afternoon from two nights at Leon Kinvig hut in the headwaters of the Pohangina River. I'd hoped to see and photograph whio, and I wasn't disappointed. On the first evening, although tired after climbing over the Ngamoko Range to reach the hut, I wandered downstream and came across a lone male whio. I managed some photographs in the fast-fading light, but hoped for better. The next day I saw no whio until the evening, when this pair greeted me just a short distance downstream from the hut.
On the way back from a walk up the No. Line track this afternoon, I drove around a bend and saw a female pheasant sprinting along the road. I slowed the car, and when she ducked through the fence into the paddock, I stopped the car. Fortunately, I had the camera on the seat next to me and the window down. I didn't manage a photograph of her, but did get a few of the two poults with her. Most of the photographs were hazy because of intervening out-of-focus grasses and weeds, but this one turned out OK after a bit of fiddling with the contrast and clarity.
I never fail to get a thrill from seeing wild pheasants.